Hello anime fans, and happy Month of Halloween! This is my first of (hopefully) two Halloween special posts for October. And what anime did I want to focus on first for this celebration of all things spooky? With the anime abomination known as Diabolik Lovers of course! Oh boy… I will be spoiling pretty much everything about this series in the article. While I don’t recommend you watch this, if you did want to, SPOILER WARNING. Please note that this is my opinion. I’m going to be pretty harsh on this show, but that does not mean that you are wrong for liking the show, and I definitely respect your opinion. Now then… Let’s sink our teeth into this one (I’m sorry about that).
I have professed my deep appreciation for the horror genre multiple times on this blog. However, I want to say that I do not like everything that falls under the category. In fact, I would say that there is a tremendous amount of media in the horror genre that I don’t like. There are so many really poorly made or just phoned in horror movies, games, and shows filling the discount bins of stores everywhere. I almost feel like I can’t say that I love horror due to how seemingly commonplace this has become. However, there are also so many amazing examples of horror out there. Some of my favorite movies, games, and anime series are horror themed or influenced. When it’s done right, horror can pull off some amazing artistic achievements, and one example of a work that does not do such is Diabolik Lovers.
We at RishRaff Reviews did a full review on this show way back in March. While it did receive a failing grade from RishRaff as well as scathing reviews from B-Ro and I, I was a bit surprised to see how easy I went on the show, and that I said one day later in my author profile that Mars of Destruction was my least favorite anime and not Diabolik. I even said that Diabolik was the best Idea Factory production I had seen, though that was simply because it was more than one episode and I remembered at least one character name afterwards (I knew Yui and was pretty sure one of the vampires was named Reiji). Now that I have had more time to think about it, Diabolik is by far my least favorite anime. Yes, Mars of Destruction and Skelter Heaven were both one episode trainwrecks, but at least they were quick, somewhat entertaining, and had a few probably unintentional good laughs. Diabolik is the only anime I have watched so far that has actually infuriated me. Not in a somewhat sarcastic “it’s fun to be mad at a bad show” way like my reaction to Momo Kyun Sword, but mad at just how bad the show is. It was repetitive, hard to watch, and the plot had more holes than poor Yui’s neck.
Now you may be thinking, “LowKev, Isn’t this a bit of a cheap shot? It’s a shoujo anime in the vein of Twilight that clearly isn’t meant to be scary”, and yeah…. You’re right. I’m definitely not in the target audience for this show, and I don’t feel that they were trying to make something that’s actually scary (at least I hope not). If you enjoy this show for what it’s worth, I don’t blame you, nor am I judging you. It’s just that while I’m not part of Diabolik’s target demographic per se, I do enjoy and have strong feelings about horror, and Diabolik Lovers fails at playing to any strengths or effectively utilizing any of the possibilities of the genre that it at the very least was influenced by (and at the most wanted to be a part of). Also, when I say not scary, I mean “scary” as more of a blanket term for horror elements in general. I believe that horror should strive to be more than just “scary”. In fact, I feel that horror does not even need to be scary per se to be considered good. Fear is an extremely subjective thing, after all. Something that has terrified me in the past may not even phase you. Having qualities beyond simply being scary is quite necessary for those who may not be scared by what you’re working with, or for people who simply want substance with their scares (and I am absolutely part of that camp). Diabolik Lovers is certainly not scary, but that didn’t ruin the show in my eyes. The key is that I also believe that it is simply not good horror. But let’s dive into my reasoning.
Repetition Kills Tension
Tension and atmosphere can be extremely useful tools in horror. I love it when a movie or game gives you that ever looming feeling that something is terribly wrong or off. It’s a feeling that sticks with the viewer, and should the stakes and action rise, put the person into full panic mode. However, these feelings can easily be killed without producing any lingering unease, shock, or panic. Perhaps the main sin that Diabolik Lovers commits is that it intentionally kills any chance of building tension or intrigue right from the start, and replaces any opportunity to build tension with repetitive and annoying scenes. To show this, let’s look at the way they set up the beginning.
You have mystery girl being driven to a mansion with some simple yet well done and foreboding piano music (which I’ll get into later). Nothing bad so far. She then sees Ayato laying there, thinks he is dead, and then he holds her down and… well… licks her. We’re only three minutes in, and already they have a scene with a vampire assaulting Yui in a very cringey way. While the way Yui realizes he may not be human is somewhat interesting, did they have to have him lick her already? Each vampire then enters the scene, introducing their one note personalities in ridiculous ways (including Subaru randomly punching a wall. A wall…). There’s no atmosphere, and there’s frankly more to laugh at (such as the wall punching and the random butler guy) or cringe at (such as the shot of Laito whispering into Yui’s ear) than anything else. There could’ve been a somewhat creepy reveal that they’re vampires, and they had a decent start for one, but it felt like they intentionally threw away that opportunity.
While I seriously disliked episode 1 because of this, there was at least a little overarching tension going on. How is this girl not going to be bitten while living with them? After all, pretty much every vampire movie I have ever seen has taught me that once you’re bitten, it’s all over. I presumed that this was going to be the point of the show from then on. She was going to have to somehow avoid these hungry vampires and not be bitten. It was an interesting concept that had good potential, or so I thought.
But then episode 2 happens, and 8 minutes in, Yui just randomly gets her blood sucked. What I thought was going to be the main conflict/source of tension in the show disappeared in perhaps the most unceremonious way possible. Did these creators have no restraint? And of course, that terrible dialogue makes the moment feel even less tense. While yes, parts of the dialogue may be lost in translation, I feel like the basic idea of “I’m an angsty vampire, so I’m gonna and suck your blood because I’m an angsty vampire” is still there from the original words. It’s not even at a cool setting or in an interesting situation. It just happens at a night school (which was already a stupid and pointless setting). Suddenly there’s much less to root for in the show. You can’t hope that she doesn’t get bitten, because it already happened. I suppose you could hope that she doesn’t get bitten again, but I pretty much knew from that point that this scene was a preview of what the rest of the show would be like.
I do want to clarify, I’m not specifically mad that they didn’t follow conventional “vampire rules” here. I’m fine with breaking monster rules, since established rules can make things too predictable. It keeps things interesting to disregard some or even most of the rules, but only if the new take on the monsters are used effectively. In this case, it makes so much more sense to keep the rule that if you’re bitten by a vampire, you either die or turn into one yourself. Having no consequence to being bitten other than pain and blood loss gets rid of any real weight to the situation. It ends up just making the scenes painful to sit through. You learn very quickly that she isn’t going to die from it, it’s going to happen a lot, and it’s going to be painfully drawn out and cringey every time. If they had kept the old rule, then there might have been a sense of terror every time she was in a possible bite situation. But of course, if they did that, then they wouldn’t have the bite scenes as selling points.
These scenes become what I would describe as a very light torture porn. It doesn’t go to nearly the levels that movies like the Saw sequels or Hostel reach (granted, those movies were all about gore, while this is much more sexualized), but it still spends a lot of time focusing on Yui getting harsassed, hurt, and tormented by the vampires. The scenes are also done in a sexualized manner in the hopes of them being enticing to some viewers. While yes, you could say “They’re vampires. Sucking blood is what they do”, the show’s creators could have at least been more tasteful. These scenes are just hard to watch for all the wrong reasons, and ruin much of the show’s potential. Too much of the run time is just Yui wandering around the mansion and running into vampires who then suck her blood or do something to her while maybe providing the smallest nugget of information. Just because a small amount of background or exposition is revealed in these scenes, that does not justify them. There are an unlimited number of ways to better show exposition.
(Yes, this legitimately happens)
As I said, this type of scene playing over and over kills any sort of tension. It’s quite honestly the worst part of the show, sucking up runtime that could be used for better things and draining me of motivation to care about the rest of the show, much like what they did to poor Yui’s neck. Speaking of Yui, let’s talk about the characters.
The Worst Kind of Characters
A huge make or break aspect of horror for me is the characters. Horror is much more effective in my eyes when good characters are involved. I can rant for days about the Silent Hill series, and one of my favorite parts about those games is the characters and monsters. Without spoiling a single thing, out of what I have played so far in the series (the original series done by Team Silent), each character has a good amount of depth, each protagonist has motivations that I can understand and empathize with, and even each enemy or monster has its own interesting backstory. I’m not saying that horror has to be so deep and dense, however I do feel that characterization is important. To bring up another example, The Babadook was such an amazing movie to me largely because of how well done the characters were, how their development changed my perception and feelings about them, and the mystery and intrigue in the idea of the Babadook himself.
Unfortunately for Diabolik Lovers, they make it so that there’s really no point in caring about Yui. She becomes so objectified as the show progresses. Sure she has that rather unimportant backstory, and still shows emotions, but it doesn’t take long to realize what she’s there for. She’s just a canvas for the vampire fantasies to be acted upon. Yui pretty much becomes a piece of meat, which is quite sad… and not sad in an interestingly tragic way, but sad in a “why would you write a character like this?” way. I feel that a lot of characters in horror fall under two categories: either they’re very empathetic and make the audience want to root for them, or they’re terrible people and make the audience want them to receive their karma. Yui certainly does give off the feeling that she is just an innocent person in a bad situation, which would normally make the viewer feel sympathy for her, however the show makes it abundantly clear that there’s nothing she can do about her situation, and the show’s really going to be nothing but her blood being sucked. It’s extremely hard to root for a character when the show makes it clear that there is no point in doing so.
And don’t even get me started with the vampires. “yours truly”? “little bitch”? “pancake”? “teddy”??Do they all have to talk? Do they all have to drive their one note personalities into my skull?? They wanted the characters to look pretty and cool. However, it really only comes across as ridiculous.
(I’m looking at you, fedora vampire)
Okay, while they’re not the most ridiculous characters I have seen, they do present little reason for me to really care about their backstories or know more about them due to how annoying they are. This is a shame since the show eventually wants you to care about their backstories. So you essentially have one note personality vampires vs a defenseless girl written in a way that actively prevents the audience from wanting to truly care.
The true villains in the show are more interesting in a relative sense, but it’s hard to care when they finally show up after everything that happened up until then. Cordelia is emphasized as totally evil, and the one behind any and all misfortune in the Sakamaki household. It’s admittedly a bit entertaining how over the top evil she is. Richter, however, felt like he was only there to have an exposition dump and his own plot twist, which ended up being pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Oh, so you’re betraying Cordelia and felt like announcing it in full on soap opera fashion. Cool I think.
(He also does this, but more on this scene later)
As the show became more and more mundane, I stopped caring about anything and everything on the screen. I do at least applaud them for making the episodes half as long. It says to me that the creators were at least aware that the show was going to be rather repetitive. However, you could trim 1.5 hours off of the show’s total runtime (which is around half), and I might have somewhat cared by the time they decided to shove some backstory into it. While yes, there are some half decent ideas with the story, it’s simply not enough, and ends up being executed pretty poorly as well.
The “Big Reveals” and “Climax”
The big backstory reveals involve Yui and the vampires. Let’s start with Yui’s revelation. On paper, it could be looked at as pretty tragic. Betrayed by the church she believed in and even what turned out to be her adopted father in some strange deal (though I guess it was revealed the father didn’t know she was being sacrificed?), and forced to spend her days in this hellish mansion as a sacrifice. Too bad we never, you know, MEET the father, or see any real glimpse of Yui’s life before the event. We don’t really get anything beyond a picture of Yui as a baby, and a very coincidentally on the nose diary entry from her father explaining that she was adopted. All we actually see of Yui is after she is trapped. This pretty much makes this “revelation” fall flat, another victim of the decision to focus more time on objectifying Yui. There also seems to be somewhat of an anti-religion message hidden in here with how the church was involved, but I can’t comprehend why the show would want me to take its message seriously after everything I’ve had to sit through.
I would like to note that the show does do a good job with at least sprinkling hints about the backstory as the show goes on. Episode 7 has a somewhat interesting clip of the vampires as kids (which is directly followed and ruined by one of the most awkward blood suck scenes in the show, but still). It’s interesting to see Cordelia being an absolutely evil mother, and then be murdered by the monsters she created in the next episode. This is another cool thing on paper, but some of the character interactions are pretty ridiculous, coming across as funny in a somewhat creepy way rather than just creepy. It also feels like a lot is implied, but not nearly enough is really shown. I feel I’m being a bit repetitive, but the show could’ve been better without the drawn out blood sucking scenes. Maybe then they could’ve had a proper backstory reveal, rather than such a rushed one.
The biggest reveal would have to be that Yui is meant to be the vessel for the reawakening of Cordelia. There are a few plot issues and mumbo jumbo with this that I will be getting into:
First off, they said that Cordelia’s heart is inside of Yui. How and when did this happen??? Like seriously, did I miss something? I’m extremely confused at this part.
Secondly, let’s talk about how Yui inevitably comes back. First, there is whole “Cordelia can’t swim in Yui’s body” part in episode 10. It’s a pretty stupid point. Seriously, why wouldn’t she be able to swim just because Yui didn’t know how? Normally I would ignore little things like this, but this was such a strange thing to do, and with everything else that’s wrong with this show, I can’t let it slide. Then Cordelia comes back for some reason, and is driven out again by… A magic serum? That feels pretty random, not to mention pretty boring. I mean, you make this big deal with a sword fight between Richter and Ayato ending with Yui stabbing herself, immediately write that off as something that actually helped Cordelia, and then just sort of end the conflict with a magic serum. Yeah, I’m not even sure why I’m surprised. Oh, and they burned Richter. Too bad.
Once that mess settled, the show had one more chance in my eyes. It could maybe show the vampires learning to appreciate Yui beyond just a blood filled play thing, or somehow have her become the vampire, the rest become normal, and have Yui get her revenge. Or maybe the entire show was just Yui’s dying dream, and she actually suffered a horrible accident and passed out from blood loss. JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING OTHER THAN nope…. The vampires go right back to their one note personalities, and each give a little monologue about how they’re going to suck more blood (which is the name of the sequel that I vow to probably never watch). Nothing learned, nothing gained, The End…
Even despite my intense disliking of the show up to that point, the ending still managed to disappoint me. I honestly laugh every time I watch those ending monologues. Remember how I said earlier that horror has the capability of pulling off amazing artistic achievements? Well, what was achieved here? The show maintained zero intrigue, there were no real statements, and no real character developments as proven by the ending monologues. You could simplify the entire Diabolik Lovers story to “Girl moves to mansion. Mansion has vampires. Girl is trapped in mansion. Vampires drink her blood. The end” and that would be all you really need. Sure, there was the revealed backstory and the whole mother thing, but nothing was achieved through it. It just showed up, went away, and everything reverted back to the same thing. The “conflict” is so bad and forgettable, that for the longest time I thought that Yui fully came back after the “Cordelia can’t swim” scene, and forgot all about not only the stupid potion thing, but the entire character of Richter! They just didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things outside of why Yui was there, but there is no real reason to care anyway.
I’m going to reference The Babadook again (pictured above). Without spoiling anything, The Babadook is a very deep movie. There is a great amount of symbolism in the film, and the ending especially has a very interesting and well-presented message. It was a movie that had me at the edge of my seat while watching it with friends, and then discussing the meanings in depth with them afterwards. My point is that it really felt like something was gained through the movie. Something was achieved through the struggles the characters went through. This is also easily exemplified in games. Being able to survive the horror of a survival horror game (or not survive but learn something through it) is an amazing feeling. The Resident Evil games are great examples of having really good and satisfying (though at times campy) end games. With Diabolik Lovers, it really felt like there was no point. There may have been some light character developments (it especially seemed that way before the potion was used), but that monologue scene pretty much screamed that it was going to largely be business as usual at the mansion despite all of the struggles. Not to mention the climax itself fell pretty flat. Again, it didn’t have to be a happy ending, and I’ll gladly admit that the very last scene with Ayato giving Yui’s cross back did show some development. But that still doesn’t excuse the monologues, and frankly doesn’t feel like enough.
Now Let’s Talk About The Music:
In our review, RishRaff and I both talked about how the music only emphasized how not scary the show itself is. With that in mind, I decided to listen to just the music, and… I was really enjoying it.
(Here’s that piano from the very beginning in full. It’s quite awesome to listen to)
The music actually creates a cool atmosphere, and a lot of the pieces are full of a very tragic and melancholy feeling that the show itself should have had. It’s nearly impossible to appreciate most of the soundtrack due to the rest of the show, but I want to give credit where credit is due to the composer. The music was done by Hayashi Yuuki, and looking at his repertoire, he’s a pretty accomplished musician in anime. He’s worked on Haikyuu, Boku no Hero Academia, Kiznaiver, and more. I’ve yet to see any of these, but I’ve definitely heard of them. One I have watched though is Death Parade. That’s right, the same composer behind Diabolik Lovers also is behind the very unique and creative Death Parade soundtrack (which I was admittedly a little harsh on in my Death Parade review).
I feel there is a better statement to make here than the soundtrack shows how bad of a horror venture Diabolik is. Diabolik Lovers’ soundtrack showcases what the show could have been. The pieces are all there really. An innocent girl in a terrible situation, a tragic plot twist that reveals why she is there, a spooky mansion with vampires that are out to suck her blood yet seem to need to keep her alive (that is, if sucking her blood didn’t actually kill or turn her). While I really don’t like a lot of the character models, the animation is actually somewhat good as well. This could have been a pretty good show or film, but the only tragedy that came from it is how horrendous it ended up being. Again, it felt like any moment they were trying to build intrigue through the good music and pretty good at times animation, they intentionally squashed it in exchange for angsty vampire models doing their thing. As I thought about it and rewatched this show, I became less mad at it, and more disappointed because of this.
Diabolik Lovers: They spent so much time sucking blood, they never made sure that they didn’t just suck.
The more I think about it, the more I want to like Diabolik Lovers. This is especially true as I listen to the soundtrack or see the little pieces of interesting ideas in the show. However, Diabolik kind of ruins itself with how it decided to treat its premise. It ends up being a bad example of horror when it could have been a decent one. Perhaps I can understand why there are people who like this show now, but I still find its numerous faults inexcusable. I know Idea Factory is mainly a game developer, and though I really don’t want to play the Diabolik Lovers games, I’ll assume they’re probably better executed than this.
For the sake of “research”, I actually looked into Diabolik Lovers Abridged, on Crack, and YouTube poops. There were a lot of them… and this series had by far the best parody videos I could find on this show. Major props to this channel, as they made watching the show seem as worth it as it ever could be.
Well, those were my thoughts. Thank you so much for reading!What did you think about Diabolik Lovers? Was there something about the show that I was missing? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.
Thank you all again, and Happy Halloween! I hope to have one more special post out by the end of the month, and this one will be on a show that I very much like. Hope to see you all then!